Styles of Learning: George Eliot watches a lesson take root (or not)

From Lapham's Quarterly (St. Ogg's c. 1840):

Whipple_2Perhaps it was because teaching came naturally to Mr. Stelling that he set about it with that uniformity of method and independence of circumstances which distinguish the actions of animals understood to be under the immediate teaching of nature. With such unerring instinct, Mr. Stelling set to work at his natural method of instilling the Eton Grammar and Euclid into the mind of Tom Tulliver. This, he considered, was the only basis of solid instruction; all other means of education were mere charlatanism, and could produce nothing better than smatterers.

Fixed on this firm basis, a man might observe the display of various or special knowledge made by irregularly educated people with a pitying smile; all that sort of thing was very well, but it was impossible these people could form sound opinions. In holding this conviction, Mr. Stelling was not biased, as some tutors have been, by the excessive accuracy or extent of his own scholarship; and as to his views about Euclid, no opinion could have been freer from personal partiality. Mr. Stelling was very far from being led astray by enthusiasm, either religious or intellectual; on the other hand, he had no secret belief that everything was humbug. He thought religion was a very excellent thing, and Aristotle a great authority, and deaneries and prebends useful institutions, and Great Britain the providential bulwark of Protestantism, and faith in the unseen a great support to afflicted minds; he believed in all these things, as a Swiss hotel keeper believes in the beauty of the scenery around him, and in the pleasure it gives to artistic visitors. And in the same way, Mr. Stelling believed in his method of education; he had no doubt that he was doing the very best thing for Mr. Tulliver’s boy. Of course, when the miller talked of “mapping” and “summing” in a vague and diffident manner, Mr. Stel­ling had set his mind at rest by an assurance that he understood what was wanted; for how was it possible the good man could form any reasonable judgment about the matter? Mr. Stelling’s duty was to teach the lad in the only right way—indeed he knew no other; he had not wasted his time in the acquirement of anything abnormal.

More here.

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